Police reforms and community policing in Poland 2017-2020 by Monika Baylis

Polish Police was established on the 24th of July 1919 by the Act of ‘’Sejm’’ – the lower chamber of Polish parliament of the Second Polish Republic and recently has celebrated its’ 95th birthday. Today, the organisation employs over 100.000 police officers and has just emerged on a new journey called ‘’A programme of modernization of Police, Customs and Boarder Services, Fire Service and Government Protection Bureau’’ allocated for the years between 2017 – 2020, proposed by a current Minister of Interior Affairs and Administration, Mr Mariusz Blaszczak in 2016 and accepted in 2017 by Polish ‘Sejm’. 

01-baylis-main2Monika Baylis who is in her final year of PhD at the University of Huddersfield, argues that the Act, which was a continuation of the previous Act dated from 2006 can be seen as ‘a fresh breath of air’ and much needed ‘’a wake-up call’’ to improve Police service in general which goes along with the view of Polish Police Federation (NSZZ) or NZZPZK expressed in an official letter directed towards Polish government in 2016, stating: ‘’Policja’ has been neglected for many years’’(NZZPZK; 2016, n.p).


Monika Baylis, University of Huddersfield

email: Monika.Baylis@hud.ac.uk  Twitter: @MonikaBaylis

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Monika Baylis with Polish Police – Warsaw airport – September 2017.

Polish Police is based on a centralized model of policing which is similar to Italian or French one. Since its creation in 1919, the organisation went through some difficult transformations by changing its’ name (e.i. from ‘Policja’ to ‘Milicja’ during the communist regime); structure and the role; reflecting some major political, economic and social changes of that times; the First; the Second World War; the Soviet Era, the fall of Communism in 1989; the birth of Polish capitalism in 1990. However, as some Polish academics argue, Polish Police known these days as ‘’Policja’’ faced considerable reforms that resulted in a restructuring of the entire policing model when Polish parliament passed a new Police Act that took effect on April 6,1990.

This Act organized the police force by allowing ‘’Policja’’ to combat crime through the new democratic political framework, where the Minister of Interior Affairs and Administration gained the administrative controls over the institution by becoming ‘’ultimately responsible for “enforcing all statutory tasks in the field of public safety and order” (Pływaczewski and Walancik, 2004, p. 93).

Other reforms occurred independently in 1995 and 1999, which restricted municipal public order forces; ‘Straz Miejska’/ ‘’Municipal guards’’ from using the official title of “police”, and added sub‐divisions within the nationalized force, therefore, widening the scope of Police work by including criminal service, prevention service, drug squads and anti‐terrorism squads.

In addition, the reforms of 1999 introduced major changes in the administrative structure of the police force as they created another level of checks on police power by requiring officers to report to both regional police chiefs and county‐level police chiefs for all police‐related matters. Therefore, each commander of the region and county become responsible for identifying and assessing problems specific to his/her jurisdictions; drug abuse, organized crime, or property crime and then allocating the appropriate resources to address each problem.

This can be seen as a policing model that echoes elements of Community Oriented Policing (COP) model found in the US and it has been argued that it was created to bring officers and community members closer together by forming a trust between police and a public. However, gaining a trust of society can be a tricky issue, especially in the country where people still remember the methods of policing used by Milicja during the Communism time, and recall or witnessed the ‘zero tolerance’ approach or ‘hard policing’ when it comes to public disorder or ‘’hooliganism’’, which is currently used by Polish Police. Therefore, there are mixed messages passed across the country; according to latest statistics published by CBOS in 2016, 65% of Polish public trusted the Police, while the remaining 27% did not. Moreover, recently Polish Media featured and questioned the Codes of Ethics of police officers who dealt with a famous case of detaining of 25 years old Igor Stachowiak from Wroclaw, who died in a police custody in May 2016.

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The Police protecting the main exit of Police Station in Wroclaw (Wyborcza.pl, 2017).

The footage appeared on one of the most popular Polish TV channels; TVN24, which prompted massive public and official reaction; public demonstrations in Wroclaw and the dismissal of officers involved in the case.

Although, the case of Igor is still controversial one in Poland, it is important to add that gaining a trust of any community can play an important role in the way the Police is being perceived by others as some scholars argue that people are more likely to obey the law when they believe in the legitimacy of police authority. Therefore, the community policing and Police reforms; ‘’the Programme of modernisation of Polish public services; Police; Customs and Boarder Services, Fire Service and Government Protection Bureau’’ have become a popular agenda in marketing materials of Polish Government or Polish Police. This can be seen as the latest mission to improve the organisation’s image and the existing model of policing by adding a new rank of NPT officer known as ‘’starszy dzielnicowy’’; using social media; Twitter; FB; National TV or by taking on more pro-active approach by helping out with the National Programme called ‘’Kreci Mnie Bezpieczenstwo’’ – ‘’ Safety first’’ funded by Polish Government, where police officers from prevention units regularly visit local schools and interact with children, young or elderly people by discussing different aspects of ‘safety’, Anti-Social Behaviour or crime.

The arguments presented above have become a part of my PhD Literature Review, however, what is more relevant is the fact, that by being a PhD researcher in Criminology I carried out in total 32 semi-structured interviews with Polish Police and Municipal Guards plus joined them on car and foot patrols between 2015 and 2016. The experience gained and my project, has provided me with a rich data with a basic message to pass on; ‘’The change is needed and welcome by police officers’’.

This can go along with the view represented by Polish Police Federation and a current Minister of Interior Affairs and Administration; Mr Mariusz Blaszczak as both sources keep pointing out that it is high time to bring a modern technology; body worn cameras; faster cars and improve officers’ conditions of work by re-opening and refurbishing police stations; adding updated system of communication or increasing officers’ salary to bring a positive change into the formation and improve the morale in general.

Finally, a recent report carried out by NIK (National Audit Office) in 2016, revealed that there is still plenty to do; increasing hours of Police training, introducing new equipment, and finally defining the role of the NPT officer itself. Yes, the list is vast and some work; testing body worn cameras; opening new police station or signing on new ammunition’s suppliers has been in the process but there are still three years left to be able to comment on the current work of Polish government and the evaluation of the reforms shall be carried out afterwards to see ‘’what works’’ or could be changed in the future. Therefore, a waiting game is on and let’s hope all actors involved will get it right as the safety of Polish public and the future of Polish Police is depending on the decisions of current government and the Chief Constable; Dr Jaroslaw Szymczyk.

Reference List:

Czapska, J., Radomska, E., and Wojcik, D. (2014), ‘’Police Legitimacy, Procedural Justice, and Cooperation with the Police: A Polish Perspective’’: Journal of Criminal Justice & Security, Vol. 16 Issue 4, p453-470. 18p.

Cebulak, W. and Pływaczewski, E. (2000), “Poland: developing nation-state”, in Barak, G. (Ed.), Crime and Crime Control: A Global View, Greenwood Press, Westport, CT, pp. 163-76.

Haberfeld, M. P., Walanick, A., & Barrtel, U. E. (2003). Community policing in Poland, final report. National Institute of Justice, (NIJ #199360). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice.

Ivkovic, S. and Haberfeld, M. (2000), “Transformation from militia to police in Croatia and Poland – a comparative perspective”, Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies

& Management, Vol. 23 No. 2, pp. 194-217.

Kancelaria Sejmu RP (2017), ‘’Dz.U. 1990 nr 30 poz. 179; Ustawa z dnia 6 kwietnia 1990 r. o Policji’’, Available from:  http://prawo.sejm.gov.pl/isap.nsf/DocDetails.xsp?id=WDU19900300179

KGP, (2017) ‘’USTAWA O MODERTNIZACJI POLSKIEJ POLICJI PRZYJETA’’, Available from: http://www.policja.pl/pol/aktualnosci/4432,Ustawa-o-modernizacji-Policji-przyjeta.html

Ministerswto Spraw Wewnetrznych I Administracji, (2016), ‘’Projekt ustawy o ustanowieniu „Programu modernizacji Policji, Straży Granicznej, Państwowej Straży Pożarnej i Biura Ochrony Rządu w latach 2017-2020”, Available from: https://bip.mswia.gov.pl/bip/projekty-aktow-prawnyc/2016/24051,Projekt-ustawy-o-ustanowieniu-Programu-modernizacji-Policji-Strazy-Granicznej-Pa.html

Misiuk, A. (2008) ‘’Historia Policji w Polsce. Od X Wieku do Współczesności’’, Wydawnictwa Akademickie i Profesjonalne.

NIK, (2016), ‘’NIK o pracy dzielnicowych’’, Available from: https://www.nik.gov.pl/aktualnosci/nik-o-pracy-dzielnicowych.html

NIST, (n.d.) ‘’Starszy dzielnicowy – awans dla dobra wspólnoty samorządowej’’, Available from: https://www.nist.gov.pl/serwis-obywatelsko-samorzadowy/starszy-dzielnicowy—awans-dla-dobra-wspolnoty-samorzadowej,428.html

Nowak, M, (2017) ‘’Polska Policja radzi, jak… schować się przed policjantem. Kto prowadzi im konta na Facebooku i Twitterze?’’, Available from: https://www.spidersweb.pl/2017/05/polska-policja-facebook-twitter.html

NZZPZ, (2016), ‘’Pan Mariusz Blaszczak Minister Spraw Wewnetrznych I Administracji WARSZAWA; WNIOSEK, Available from: https://bip.mswia.gov.pl/bip/projekty-aktow-prawnyc/2016/24051,Projekt-ustawy-o-ustanowieniu-Programu-modernizacji-Policji-Strazy-Granicznej-Pa.html

NSZZ, (2016), ‘’Wniosek o dodatek specjalny dla OPP i SPPP trafił na biurko Komendanta Głównego Policji’’, Available from: http://nszzp.pl/najwazniejsze-wiadomosci/wniosek-o-dodatek-specjalny-dla-opp-sppp-trafil-biurko-komendanta-glownego-policji/

Policja.pl, (n.d.), ‘’Historia’’, Available from: http://www.info.policja.pl/inf/historia

Policja.pl, (n.d.) ‘’Kampania MSWiA „Kręci mnie bezpieczeństwo”, Available from: http://www.policja.pl/pol/aktualnosci/142091,Ruszyla-kampania-MSWiA-Kreci-mnie-bezpieczenstwo.html

Policja.pl, (n.d.) ‘’Komendant Glowny Policji’’, Available from: http://www.info.policja.pl/inf/kierownictwo-i-struktu/komendanci/86241,Komendanci.html

Policja.pl, (n.d.) ‘’Zero tolerancji dla kiboli i chuliganów stadionowych’’, Available from: http://www.policja.pl/pol/aktualnosci/138687,Zero-tolerancji-dla-kiboli-i-chuliganow-stadionowych.html

Policja.pl, (2016) ‘’Wiekszosc Polakow Deklaruje zaufanie do Policji’’, Available from: http://www.policja.pl/pol/aktualnosci/122393,Wiekszosc-Polakow-deklaruje-swoje-zaufanie-do-Policji.html

Policja.pl, (n.d.) ‘’Nowe posterunki’’, Available from: http://www.policja.pl/pol/tagi/7816,nowe-posterunki.html

Pływaczewski, E. and Walancik, P. (2004), “Challenges and changes to the police system in

Poland”, in Caparini, M. and Marenin, O. (Eds), Transforming Police in Central and

Eastern Europe: Process and Progress, Transaction Publishers, London, pp. 93-114.

Summers, D. and Plywaczewski, E. (2012), ‘’The Polish context Examining issues of police reform, drug use and drug trafficking in a transitioning democracy’’: Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies & Management, Vol. 35 Issue: 2, pp.231-252,

TVN24, (2017), ‘’Policja testuje kamery mundurowe. Docelowo mają rejestrować wszystkie interwencje (http://www.tvn24.pl)’’, Available from: https://fakty.tvn24.pl/ogladaj-online,60/policja-testuje-kamery-mundurowe-docelowo-maja-rejestrowac-wszystkie-interwencje,744485.html

TVN24, (2017), ‘’Sprawa śmierci Igora Stachowiaka. “Dążymy do tego, by policjanci byli wyposażeni w tasery” (http://www.tvn24.pl)’’, Available from: https://www.tvn24.pl/wiadomosci-z-kraju,3/igor-stachowiak-zmarl-na-komisariacie-policja-o-uzywaniu-paralizatora,741922.html

University of Huddersfield, (2017) ‘’Same page or poles apart – policing anti-social behaviour’’, Available from: http://www-old.hud.ac.uk/news/2017/january/samepageorpolesapartpolicinganti-socialbehaviour.php

 

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Building Foundations- A message for those at the start of their PhD.

As we start a new academic year, our Chair reflects on the early stages of the PhD.

So much of the early stages of the PhD is understanding the PhD process and what is expected of you. Where is the bar we’re aiming for? What level of writing? What level of knowledge? What level of analysis? An original contribution to what now?! It’s learning; how you work, how you write, how you get the best out of yourself. Building relationships, with other PhD students, with your supervisors, with your networks. Building resilience. Building confidence. And learning the field, learning your research topic. That in-depth knowledge of your topic begins from year one.

We’re in the PhD for the long haul. It is, as many say, a marathon. And the PhD can take over your life, and the lives of people around you. What do you mean people aren’t interested in discussing Goffman and Foucault?! The PhD has a presence with you, in your mind, a companion. The things you put in place in the first year need to make sense for the distance. You can’t sprint or push through for the whole of the PhD. There may be sprinting moments, but the way you work needs to be sustainable for the longevity. Be kind to yourself. Build practices that make sense for you and make sense for the marathon.

The first part of the PhD is important. It feels like nothing is happening and you’re getting nowhere. But this is building your foundations; your working practices, your knowledge, your confidence. And your PhD rests on these foundations. They are essential. It may feel like you’re lost in those early days, going down blind alleys of reading, different directions, different distractions. Is this relevant? Is it important? It may feel that you’re not achieving anything, going around in circles. But the foundation-building of the first year is fundamental. Trust that it is important. You absolutely need it. It makes for a strong PhD resting on solid ground.

This stage matters. You’re doing the building. Be patient. Be sensible. Be kind to yourself.

Claire Davis, BSC Postgraduate Chair.

 

PhD Blog – How can we make sense of the experiences of a growing number of Eastern European women in English prisons?

1448056554235This new contribution to the PhG guest blog is from Magdalena Tomaszewska. Magdalena is a second-year PhD candidate at the University of Surrey. Her PhD explores the treatment and experiences of female Eastern European prisoners in England and Wales (particularly those from the A8 and A2 accession countries to the EU). Working across 3 prisons in England and a third sector organisation providing support for female foreign national prisoners, she examines the lived realities of incarceration for these women, taking into account their socio-cultural backgrounds, relationships with staff and other prisoners, and the effects of the penal policy shifts which have prioritised removal of ‘foreigners’.

This project builds on her Masters research which explored the experiences of female foreign national prisoners in one prison in the South East of England and has been awarded Howard League’s John Sunley prize. Magdalena’s broad research interests lie in the area exploring linkages between identity, imprisonment and immigration control, especially in the context of women’s imprisonment. Alongside her doctoral studies, she is working with the University College London and a user-led charity User Voice co-coordinating a large-scale trial testing the merits of mentalisation based treatment (MBT) for offenders diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder (ASPD).

Contact: m.tomaszewska@surrey.ac.uk


How can we make sense of the experiences of a growing number of Eastern European women in English prisons?

Anna, originally from the Czech Republic, came to the UK at the age of 10 and has lived here ever since. After committing a drug-related offence, she was sentenced to just over 3 years imprisonment. In addition to her custodial term she was also informed that she was going to be deported from the UK on the completion of her sentence, since, as it was explained to her, as a ‘foreign criminal’ she had ‘no right to remain in the UK’. She was released from HMP Peterborough earlier this year having successfully appealed her case.

Anna is one of a growing number of Eastern European women currently held in prisons throughout England and Wales. Since 2004, when 11 countries of the former Eastern Bloc[1] joined the European Union, the number of female prisoners originating from these countries has risen dramatically (even though the overall proportion of foreign nationals in the female estate has remained at a 11%) (MoJ, 2016). Today, within a population which counts nearly 80 countries, every third inmate comes from Eastern Europe, with Poland and Romania as the top two. Overall however, these women have remained invisible, apart from a handful of third sector accounts which emphasize their vulnerability to exploitation through trafficking (e.g. Prison Reform Trust, 2012), or press reports which lump them together with men, portraying them under the label of ‘dangerous Eastern European criminals’[2], and with it fuelling the demands for more streamlined deportations.[3]

Both of these perspectives are problematic. For one, given the difficulty in identifying victims of trafficking via the National Referral Mechanism it is tricky to assess how big a problem trafficking is amongst the incarcerated East European women (Gelsthorpe and Hales, 2012). It would be difficult to deduce that from the nature of offences which predominantly land them in prison, which PRT (2012) reports as theft and handling or drugs offences. At the same time, violent offences among this population are lower than for their British counterparts. Majority serve their first and only prison sentences, with a ‘very low’ risk of reoffending. In this sense, there is also little to support the argument that these women are especially dangerous.

These discussions however divert attention away from the changes that have already taken root in the female prison system. When Anna arrived at HMP Bronzefield in 2013, it had been 5 years since the UK Borders Act 2007 came into power, requiring all EEA nationals sentenced to more than 2 years imprisonment to be – in line with section 32 (5) of the Act – mandatorily deported from the UK[4]. This, as Kaufman (2012) has shown, was further accompanied by broader logistical arrangements between the Prison Service and the Home Office under the ‘hubs and spokes’ agreement, whereby non-citizens (especially those under deportation orders) are to be concentrated in specific foreign national ‘hub’ prisons which are furnished with full time immigration staff who are to facilitate a more efficient deportation process.

In 2013, on the recommendation of the NOMS Women’s Custodial Estate Review (2013), this system was adopted in the female estate. As the report advised, a female foreign national hub was to be created at HMP Peterborough, ‘taking into account best practice from the male hub and spoke system’ (p.6). Much like in the male estate then, the female prison system took it upon itself to systematically identify and segregate women who ‘do not belong in the UK’.

In my research I explore the experiences of currently the largest regional group within the female foreign prison population – Eastern European women – who ‘do time’ under these conditions. Taking inspiration from the scholarship which looks to questions about identity at the intersection of gender, race, and class to cast light on the prison as a space ‘permeated’ by broader social inequalities (e.g. Phillips and Earle, 2011; Bosworth and Kaufman, 2012), I am interviewing currently and formerly incarcerated Eastern European women as well as a range of practitioners working with them (prison officers, legal case workers), documenting accounts like that of Anna, who shortly before being transferred to HMP Peterborough was told by one prisoner that this was a place where “all you Russian prostitutes go to”, and where she could, according to one prison officer, “find the support of those with the same “culture”. Politics of identity, as Kaufman (2012, p. 18) observes, ‘are central to the practice of punishment’.

Stories such as Anna’s can offer new insights into this work, especially when it comes to documenting the relationship between imprisonment and nationality. Authors such as Emma Kaufman and Mary Bosworth have led this effort, developing illuminating accounts on how the practice of deportation and treatment of many non-citizens caught up in it (especially those originating from former British colonies) implicates the British prison in the exercise of ‘collective [postcolonial] amnesia’. The positioning of East European prisoners like Anna clearly doesn’t fit this frame. Instead, it seems to speak to anxieties about more recent, ‘suspect white’ migrants from poorer parts of Europe, who, although conform to racialized understandings of what it means to be European, are subject to gendered, classed and racialized framing as ‘other’, based on language and cultural difference (Bhui, 2016).

Thinking more broadly about the emerging themes, many important changes are currently taking place in the arena of British immigration policy. As the fieldwork for this project gathers pace, the British government is set to start the process of taking the UK out of the European Union. Although it seems that for now, the topic of foreign national prisoners as well as the specifics of immigration policy where it crosses paths with the prison system remain lower down the list of negotiation priorities for Theresa May, it is yet to be seen what effect Brexit will have on the carceral lives of the growing ranks of female prisoners from Eastern Europe (as well as those from wider EU) held in British penitentiary institutions. For Anna, one thing was clear: “Learn to live with uncertainty”.

References

Bhui, H. (2016), ‘Place of Race in understanding immigration control and the detention of foreign nationals’, Criminology and Criminal Justice, 16 (3), pp. 267 – 285.

Bosworth, M. and Kaufman, E. (2012), ‘Gender and Punishment’, in Simon, J. and Sparks, R. (eds.) Handbook of Punishment and Society, London: Sage.

Gelsthorpe, L. and Hales, L. (2012), ‘Criminalisation of Migrant Women’, Institute of Criminology, University of Cambridge, UK, available at: http://www.crim.cam.ac.uk/people/academic_research/loraine_gelsthorpe/criminalreport29july12.pdf.

Kaufman, E. (2012), ‘Finding Foreigners: Race and the Politics of Memory in British Prisons’, Population, Space and Place, 18 (6), pp. 701 – 714.

Ministry of Justice (2016), Offender Management Caseload Statistics 2016, London Ministry of Justice.

National Offender Management Service (2013), Women’s Custodial Estate Review, available at: http://socialwelfare.bl.uk/subject-areas/services-client-groups/adult-offenders/nationaloffendermanagementservice/155762womens-custodial-estate-review.pdf.

Phillips, C. and Earle, R. (2011), ‘Cultural diversity, ethnicity and race relations in prison’ in Crewe, B. and Bennett, J. (eds.) The Prisoner, London: Routledge.

Prison Reform Trust (2012), ‘No way out: A briefing paper on foreign national women in prison in England and Wales’, (online), available at: http://www.prisonreformtrust.org.uk/portals/0/documents/nowayout.pdf.

Footnotes

[1] The 2004 A8 accession countries include: Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia. The 2007 A2 accession countries include: Bulgaria and Romania. In 2013 Croatia also joined the EU.

[2] See for example: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2614279/Poland-tops-league-foreign-inmates-UK-jails-ahead-Ireland-Jamaica.html.

[3] See for example: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3622924/EU-killers-rapists-ve-failed-deport-UK-s-inability-expel-thousands-foreign-criminals-undermines-case-EU-say-MPs.html, https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/2291020/more-than-130-polish-criminals-jailed-in-the-uk-should-have-been-deported-in-past-four-years-bungling-officials-admit/, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/eu-referendum-more-than-13000-foreign-criminals-awaiting-deportation-from-uk-a7063026.html.

[4] This rule also applies to all non-EEA nationals sentenced to more than 1 year in prison.

PhD Blog – The police and domestic abuse crime: positive steps but much more to be done

larissaThis weeks PhD Blog is from Larissa Povey, final-year PhD Candidate within the Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research and Associate Lecturer in Criminal Justice at Sheffield Hallam University. Larissa’s PhD explores the impact of changes in UK criminal justice and welfare policies on the everyday lives of women at the social margins. Using a mixture of qualitative interviews, visual and ethnographic methods her study examines the lived experiences, perceptions and sense-making narratives of women who have been subject to multiple interventions from state agencies spanning both welfare and penal systems. Larissa hopes to make a contribution through using a feminist lens to explore the gendered character of social control and disciplining, texturing theoretical debates which often focus on men.

Larissa’s broad research interests lie in the areas of women and criminal justice, punishment beyond the prison, welfare policy, labour markets and social control.

PhD funding: Sheffield Hallam University Vice-Chancellor’s PhD Scholarship. This PhD is linked to the ESRC-funded “Welfare Conditionality: Sanctions, Support and Behaviour Change” project (http://www.welfareconditionality.ac.uk/).

Contact: larissa.j.povey@student.shu.ac.uk

The police and domestic abuse crime: positive steps but much more to be done

As a PhD candidate researching women’s experiences of the criminal justice system and welfare reform, I was recently invited to take part in a Domestic Abuse Crime Scrutiny Panel for a national police agency. This got me thinking about the way we deal with this type of crime in England and Wales; alongside small steps in the right direction there are contradictory developments which thwart such advances, particularly broader shifts in social policy under austerity.

Based on efforts by the Crown Prosecution Service to show transparency and engage the local community in examining police work, the earlier scrutiny panels focused on hate crime; the first, piloted in West Yorkshire in 2004 focused specifically on race hate crime. The development of domestic abuse crime scrutiny panels followed and more recently we have seen panels focusing on cases of violence against women and girls.

Efforts such as these indicate that across the criminal justice system agencies are attempting to take domestic abuse (DA) crimes and violence against women and girls more seriously. Indeed, statistics from a recent Crown Prosecution Service report (2016: 1) show that it is “prosecuting and convicting more defendants of domestic abuse, rape, sexual offences and child sexual abuse than ever before”. Importantly, there has been an 11% rise in convictions for Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) crimes, a trend that has been seen over the past three years. Prosecutions of this nature currently account for almost 20% of the Crown Prosecution Service’ total case load.

While new panels provide encouraging indicators that the police want to improve the way that they handle DA and VAWG crime, things are not entirely rosy. For example, the Home Office does not gather official statistics on the number of women and girls killed through domestic violence, a vast oversight. We do know the number of women killed by men in the UK because of the work of one individual Karen Ingala Smith, CEO of nia (a domestic violence charity) who began Counting Dead Women in 2012, her efforts are now supported by Women’s Aid and has developed into the Femicide Census to record all cases of ‘the murder of women because they are women’ (Women’s Aid, 2016). These efforts show a year on year increase in the number of women dying, averaging two women per week, at the hands of a partner, ex-partner or family member.

On the one hand we have the highest recorded reporting and prosecutions for DA and VAWG crimes. On the other, we have an increasing number of women dying from this type of crime. So what are some of the reasons that might be contributing to this? Since 2010, we have seen swinging cuts to services under austerity. This includes large cuts to women’s refuges resulting in the loss of 17% of specialist refuges and a third of referrals being turned away. Police guidelines outline refuges as a key intervention in the effective protection of victims, so with fewer refuges and places for vulnerable women and children it is a no brainer that this may have a detrimental effect on victims’ ability to get themselves to safety.

Though prosecutions are up, these cases reflect a small proportion of the overall number of incidences reported. And there are new ways of committing these offences as seen in the proliferation of online abuse specifically using social media as a tool for stalking, harassment and control. Policing these new mechanisms of abuse take investment and resources, there is much work to be done and things are likely to get worse as we see continued cuts to police budgets meaning fewer specialist police.

Other reforms such as changes to legal aid have been felt particularly acutely by women, who will have little recourse to free legal aid. According to this report such changes “raise disturbing questions about the state’s failure to protect women, especially those at risk of – and those who have already experienced – domestic violence” (Mayo and Koessl, 2015: 9).

There are deeper, enduring structural inequalities which place women in a position of less power in relation to men, this legacy can be seen in the persistence of devaluing of social reproductive work, the gender pay gap, gendered labour, maternity leave policy to name just a few. It is this power imbalance that creates a breeding ground for domestic abuse which is about power and control. These inequalities will be made worse by ongoing reforms to both in-work and out-of-work benefits. Upcoming reforms are likely to worsen the financial situation of vulnerable women, particularly lone parents. These factors explain some of the reasons behind the statistics and we may see further increases in DA and VAWG crimes and dead women.

SPECIAL CALL for contributions: EU Referendum result

We are putting out a special call for contributions from criminology postgrads. This is an opinion piece, and we are only after a small paragraph 150-300 words, that discusses the potential implications of the vote on criminal justice.You can address any area of criminal justice- such as prisoner voting, or human rights – or talk more generally about the impact upon wider criminal justice issues (security etc). 

It doesn’t matter how you voted, this is about looking forward to consider what this vote may mean. The committee will take a selection of submissions (assuming we receive enough suitable contributions to run the piece), and post one blog about it next week. 

Please email submissions to nicola.harding@stu.mmu.ac.uk before Wednesday 29th June 2016.